Monday, July 15, 2024

Family reunion reconnect

Along with my mother's 90th birthday, I got to attend a combined family reunion.

My mother came from a large depression era family. She was one of six children and each of her siblings had at least two and sometimes as many as five children. Throughout my childhood there were always large gatherings. It was always something to look foward to as there were many children of a similar genration and we'd all run ourselves to exhaustion in various ways.

As the years passed, cousins got along with their lives and the original orgainzers aged, the expansive reunions of my youth were replaced more modest gatherings. I was last at one in 2010. Fourteen years had passed since I saw anyone on that side of the family. My mother's cohort of siblings got reduced to just her and the widow of one of her brothers. Many of the kids I'd grown up with had moved into other sections of the nation and without the singular focus on my grandparents, the gatherings difused.

I walked into the Odessa park area, which had been the scene of past gatherings, with an entree and dessert. My cousin has asked those attending to bring at least one item. As I saw the people I'd grown up with and placed my contributions on the picnic table, my heart started to swell with gratitude, pleasure, fellowship. I don't know how the Prodigal son felt of that biblical story, but I'd like to imagine it was somewhat how I felt.

Everyone had a big hug for me and was so pleased to see me. I hugged, shook hands, and echanged long latent greetings with all of the people. They all asked how my kids were and what they were doing. It was hard for them to believe that my children are now adults.

The kicker of it was when I and my cousin's wife of 30+ years laid eyes on each other. We hugged fiercely and broke into tears. It was so heartwarming to see her and then to embrace my first cousin I'd grown up with and spent so much time during my childhood. I'd missed them in ways that were hard to count over the ensuing fourteen years. When I left, my cousin's kids were just going in to junior high, now they're full grown adults with children of their own. I can't believe that grandkids are part of their life now.

Then came the eating.

As anyone who reads this blog, or who knows me, I'm not a religious person. A cousin from another branch of my grandmother's tree said grace. I bowed my head out of tradition and respect, then I listened.

For those not familiar with midwestern meal blessings I'll give you the liturgical outline and then I'll translate the meaning:

Dear heavenly father, we are gathered here today...[message] (our Lord's/Jesus') name we pray. Amen.

Here's what was meant, if not what was said:
I'm so glad we could all be here together today. (As anyone living since 2020 knows, it's a gift)
I hope something good is coming your way and you'll be ready for it.
I hope that if you're suffing it will be brief and you'll have the support you need.
Let's all show the enjoyment and love we have for each other in our trials and triumphs.
Now let's eat!

This simple blessing brought my feelings of all of the previous reunions back to me and all of the memories of this good family that I've been fortunate to be a part of.

My wife had it correct when I shared this with her. "Of all the things the Peersons did, those reunions were top notch."

Across the continent, across the miles, across the years, the love is still there.

I love them all right back.

Photo of three of the four boy cousins from my youth. L -> R: My brother, Me, My cousin Dave. So much history, secrets, michief and great times bundled there.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Decline and fall of motherhood

Despite local working circumstances, I was able to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday in person last month. It has been a long time since I've seen her. My brother has been in charge of her care for quite some time now. She is aging in the way her mother did, healthy of body, frail of mind.

I've noticed a change in her interal monologue over the past year. It's changed. I used to call her and she'd talk about my brother and his family, now the calls are about how she is fine and not to worry about her. There isn't worry, but there is concern.

She can be mentally 'there' at points in time, but there's a loss of the internal mind consistency. I helped her get her hair washed while I was there, after some appeal to her vanity, and there were a couple of false starts as she struggled to find the shampoo. She's losing the memory of objects in her place and if things aren't readily visible, they may not be found at all. She has a fridge full of leftovers that she forgets to eat from what I can tell. I have a hunch her body is telling her she's hungry, but she sees the plates and thinks "I've already eaten." and then doesn't sustain herself properly.

On her birthday, I arrived at her apartment and met a couple of women from her church she attended in the early 2000s through the mid 2010s. I don't know if she knew them well during her time there, but it was nice to see the outreach. We went out on an almost two hour drive around her former house, the church she spent time at, her mother's house from when I knew my grandmother, my old schools nearby, and the general neighborhood. She remembered none of them. What was particularly maudlin was the unrecognition of her house and church. She spent so much time in both places and kept them well. She wasn't sad about it, that was for me. She was happy to be about observing the late June Missouri countryside. I was happy to be there with her.

There will be a cessation of these events, hers and mine. Both of our lives have been and will be fleeting. It has been both a long time and a short one depending on one's perspective.

I have questions about my youth and hers which won't be answered. I can bear those regrets and I can celebrate what she time she has left. Love you mom, even though you won't read these words or see this photo.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Blog reclamation

Hello any readers. I'm sure I've said this before, but this is my space on the internet. I'm not here to shove ads at you or monetize your attention. I'd like to share bits & portions of my life with those who find it interesting, amusing, or offensive. If there is a 'brand' of me, it starts here. However the complaints department is closed and I'll be nattering on this 'vintage' (obsolete) way of information sharing for the near future.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Funeral for a friend

 XO has shuffled off of this mortal coil. He was one of my influencers and friends in the KC blogging community. I admired him, and he I. His passing is saddening and his voice on this vast internet has been missed for quite some time. 

His original blog has been taken over by some wanker redirecting to parts unknown, so I won't be linking to that. His work can still be found on the internet archive and I'd suggest rolling through his posts like this one or the war on terrorism if you have some time. 

Those of us in the KC blogging community did our bits of writing online to connect with other people in this daring new online space. This was before epic monetization, and the branding of individuals so they could be influencers. It was a way to self reflect, and share our thoughts, such as they were with people who were in the same area seeing our shared community through different eyes. XO is not the first of this small group to pass, but his friendship and personality were well-regarded by (most) all of us.

There was a small gathering at GTO's place a week ago and it was good to see people and see the cross section of XO's life gathered to remember him. I'm going to quote from one our members in group chat we were having on the news of him passing.

I am feeling oddly positive about [XO]'s departure from life. He most likely would have chosen to die in privacy - he would not have wanted a bunch of people crying around him. He knew he was loved by a crowd of people he wouldn't have known or even been exposed to if not for the bloggers world. He had friends who were nothing like him - he was a prickly person who most likely would have been left alone to be a hermit in a less caring world. He was cared for up to the end by friends and hospice - and he knew he could post something online about needing a package moved, and someone would help him out. In return, he took us along his ride toward his final destination. He described the fear of almost toppling down the stairs recently. He let us know what it is like to know that your days are numbered and that there won't be any more big adventures, but he wasn't self-pitying. [XO] was his own person, and he died peacefully in bed. His greatest worry was to be found in a broken and bloody heap at the bottom of the stairs, or found after several days in a heat wave. Over the years we knew him, he transformed from a deeply cynical guy into someone who felt love and gave it more freely that he could have dreamed fifteen years ago. 

 XO was unique and it was good to see him and remember him in the presence of all of those long-time friends. XO wasn't a hugger, but being with all of those friends felt like a warm hug. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

A grieving day today

 Our dog Olive, of nine plus years, was put to sleep with her family in attendance today after a year long struggle with mouth cancer. It has been a hard day for all of us especially my daughter.

I'm am proud of my family for showing kindness, compassion, love, and unwillingness to leave anyone alone during this grievous period. The virtues of our group were on full display. 

Here are some images and videos of her in happier times:

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Twenty years ago today

 I had a former colleague advised me to not put my family website blog in an email footer if I wasn't updating it on a semi-frequent business. That's not why I still have it. I've long opted out of the attention economy and kept this as part of my personal journal to be online. Originally I did it to showcase my technical prowess with web applications. Now I keep it for sentimental and landmark reasons. Some of those items may be worth a follow-up blog post, but not today.

Today I want to state how proud of am of my two decades old son. Twenty years ago on a very hot August day in Kansas this happened:

It was an amazing event for everyone involved. 

We moved this little one, now taller than us, across county a dozen years ago and he's made as much of a way as he can out here in LA. We didn't know it until several years in, but he's not mentally wired like most people and struggled with academics in our school system. He is smart, just not in a way the standardized testing is geared for. He's currently figuring out where to go with his life from here and we're supporting whatever decision(s) he makes. 

It has been such a gratifying and learning experience for myself and Janet. We have been pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised in many ways as I expect most every parent is or will be. There are no safety straps on this ride.

But getting back to my pride in this young man. Let's consider my self-evaluation of when I turned 20: 

I had been on a fruitless quest to hook up with college girls and spent more than my fair share of time in seedy bars of my college town. I had moved out and moved back in with my parents and I was more than a bit sullen, angry, and stuck. I was deceitful and unkind in many ways and I'm amazed that anyone stuck with me at all. I had some support networks but most days I was angry and hostile, especially to those I lived with. My father was in the process of dying but I didn't realize what a big deal that was. I was in college but not applying myself. The person I was wouldn't recognize myself now. I had maxed out the credit card the industry vultures had supplied college students in those days. I was aimless and many things felt hopeless.

Let's compare that jerk with my son. 

He's not in college. He's also not wasting his money or time being somewhere he doesn't want to be. He is kind and welcoming to people. He has a close group of friends that really enjoy his company. He's not in any debt. He is enthusiastic and willing to share his interests. He helps willingly and cheerfully helps with the house chores we've assigned him. He's a good driver(in LA that's huge!). He doesn't drink, or drink and drive. He doesn't lie - like at all. He likes being in our home. He asks me to cook for him and has enough pride in his father's cooking that he shares it with his friends.

Comparing those characteristics with my own at the same age, he's a far better person that I was at his age.  Matt, I'm proud of the person you are. It hasn't always been easy for me to think or say that, but it is true. As I look at where you are and who you're becoming, I would not have imagined it could come from that person I was at 20. I love you very much and I'm going to enjoy seeing what you become.


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A parable for 2020 Zeitgeist

 President Donald J Trump reactivated the New Jersey and it's battle group to show the amazing strength of the U.S. 

While out on the shakedown cruise with Admiral Crown a sudden storm arose, knocking out radios and hampering visibility. Suddenly the bridge crew spotted a light ahead not moving toward either side of the massive battleship - indicating a collision was imminent. 

BB-62(using light signals): Approaching ship, suggest you turn N or S to avoid collision

 Unknown ship: Suggest you turn

BB-62: This is the New Jersey, not some commercial vessel. Suggest you change course.

US: Respectfully, I suggest you change course.

BB-62: (The President has noticed the situation and decided to intervene) This is Donald J Trump, President of the United States and Command-in-Chief of the armed forces, you will turn or this beautiful amazing battleship will crush you like a bug!

US: This is a lighthouse.

DJT: Admiral Crown, full speed ahead, you'll fly right over him!